Monday, June 28, 2010

So Long, Hạ Long!

"...south Detroit"

- Steve Perry, in Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'"

This past weekend, I, one of my friends and a friend of that friend travelled to, through and from Hạ Long Bay. The trip through was the most exciting of the three trips. Yet again, the tour was with AST (for those with short memories, AST is the name of a Hanoi tour company, and that name stands for "Affable, Safe and Trustworthy"). Our guides were just as safe and probably just as trustworthy (although I didn't tell them any secrets, so I cannot confirm this) but definitely not as affable. They weren't mean, but they just weren't...affable.

You probably want to see some pictures now. Here we go!

I don't know what expression I was going for in the last photo.

The bus ride from Hanoi to Hạ Long City took about four hours. After getting our tickets, we boarded the boat which was our home for the subsequent twenty-three hours. Lunch was nice - rice, prawns, vegetables with meat, cooked greens, cooked salad (yes, my friends, the kitchen staff made an iceberg-lettuce salad then sautéed it until limp) and pineapple. I was very disappointed to be seated at a table with forks, spoons and knives set up. I had intended to go my entire placement without using a fork. But my travel companions sat with the other Westerners (French, in this case) on the boat, and those Westerners sat at the table with the Western eating implements. All of the other guests on the boat were visibly of East Asian descent, and were seated at tables with chopsticks. To ask for dôi dũa (a term more elegant than "chopsticks") would have been ridiculous. So I suffered as the prongs of the fork lacerated and impaled my pride. I will just have to go for nine months and two weeks without using chopsticks.

Really, all there is to see from a boat in Hạ Long Bay is the rock formations. You can say that they look like anything you want them to look like. I said that they reminded me of the background of the Mushroom Kingdom in Super Mario for SNES. I don't know if you get that sense from the photos that I show here, because it is impossible to see in them the whole panorama. Maybe you can see some cool shapes in these rocks:

After a while, once you've seen one rock in Hạ Long Bay, you've seen them all.

Our first stop was the Surprising Cave. I'm not sure who was first surprised by the magnificent formations in this cave - French people or Vietnamese people. They would most assuredly have been surprised by these garbage cans:

Like the rocks on the outside, one can make anything of the rock formations in Surprising Cave. Check it out:

Wait a second...those formations in the last photo look an awful lot like people! How improbable that millions of years of erosion would create such life-like protrusions!

Ladies, savour these next two photos. Men, leave the room:

THAT is how excited the first person to discover the cave was when he first entered it.

After the cave was kayaking. Kayaking is one of the most amazing things to do. It's fun, puts you outside, gets you semi-wet and gives you a great arms workout. I was in a kayak with a twenty-four-year-old owner of a bar in Sai Gon. She liked the strength of my paddling but complained whenever we had to turn our kayak sharply. She always made me turn the boat by myself. But she and her companions ended up treating me and my companions to some beer and some seafood. One of those companions and I talked for a while. She taught me a bit of a Vietnamese song which sounds really pretty when sung without accompaniment, but somewhat cheesy when sung by Mỹ Tâm in this video:

That night, I slept in this room:

The night went mostly without a hitch. At around midnight, gas filled my room because the motor was being revved constantly as the crew tried valiantly (seriously) to restore power to the boat so that guests could have air conditioning. My room must have been the one closest to the motor. Anyway, we went along, and I took more pictures the next morning. They look very, very similar to the ones I took the previous day, no?

That morning, I stayed on the top deck of the boat, took pictures and slept hardcore. It was great to spend three-and-a-half hours on the top of the boat. At lunch, I witnessed a Heimlich maneuvre! One of the Australian/New Zealander (I couldn't tell) tourists from our return trip had a string of something lodged deep in his throat and was choking on it. One of his companions had to do quite a few pumps on his abdomen. His ordeal lasted for about one minute - I was really worried that he wasn't going to make it. I'm glad that all that resulted was a bit of vomit on the floor and some lost appetites. I was all for continuing to eat, because we should have been celebrating the fact that this person was saved, and we should have been celebrating it by eating.

All in all, the morning was great. I realised about half of the way through the bus ride back that I had forgotten to put sunscreen on my feet. I was wearing sandals, so this is what I saw when I got back to my hotel room:

The camera's flash makes it look a little bit worse than it actually was. Only a little bit.

1 comment:

  1. Heh love the garbage cans and penis rocks! Fun for the whole family 'eh.